This letter was written by students (myself included) at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism in Vancouver, in response to the publication of a racist letter in a Postmedia outlet, the Nanaimo Daily News.
As students at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, we are embarrassed for you at what you consider fit for print.
The letter from Don Olsen entitled “Educate First Nations to be modern citizens,” published March 27, is one of the most racist, ignorant things we have read in any context, much less in a well-read newspaper. And it is only the most recent example of Olsen’s racism in your publication.
Olsen can’t even get his facts straight, suggesting that Aboriginal people contributed nothing to modern society. Among contributions by North American Indians are potatoes, corn, and important elements of the U.S. Constitution, namely the concept of personal freedom. He points out, correctly, that they never developed the wheel, which makes it all the more impressive that their trade networks spanned the entire continent.
As young journalists in Canada’s only Reporting in Indigenous Communities class, some of us have been trying to learn to tell their stories in a way that respects their history and culture. Others among us have been learning about the human rights violations that occurred within our country in living memory. One thing we have learned is that the bigoted misconceptions in Olsen’s letters have real consequences for these people and communities.
We find it incredibly disheartening that any newspaper would consider this to be an acceptable way to draw readers. It is incomprehensible to us that you would provide a venue for material that could just as easily be coming from the headmaster of a 19th century residential school.
There is no excuse for the Nanaimo Daily News to have repeatedly given Olsen a soapbox from which to hurl his racism to a wider audience.
Julia Kalinina (former student)